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Two new species of corals discovered

Muscat: Two Oman-based researchers have discovered two new species of corals off the Omani coast.

The discoveries were made by a coral reef biologist with the Sultan Qaboos University (SQU) and a coral researcher associated with the Environmental Society of Oman (ESO).

The duo also struck upon a rare and unusual coral colony that lives only in Omani waters.

Dr Michel Claereboudt, who teaches marine science at the SQU, announced the discovery of blue coral (Porites decussata) and the sixteen-finger flower coral (Calathiscus tantillus) at a press conference held here yesterday.

Rare finding

"The sixteen-finger flower coral is very rare and unusual, with short-lived colonies that are likely limited in distribution and found only in Oman," the soft-spoken scientist revealed.

In contrast, the blue coral has small colonies 5-6 cm across and has been found in numerous sites across Oman.

"The blue coral will most likely be discovered in other areas of the Middle East also," said Dr Claereboudt.

"There are now estimated to be approximately 130 species of coral off the coast of Oman, much more than was formerly thought to subsist in the region," he said.

The Belgian scientist believes that there were probably at least 20 more species yet to be discovered, possibly including five more new to science.

"Discovering a new species is very exciting. Any new piece of the puzzle that facilitates the further understanding of the evolution and geography of corals and how they have moved from one continent to another is very important," he said.

Corals belong to a large group of relatively simple and colourful organisms called Cnidaria. The organisms responsible for the fundamental building process of the reef are the tiny polyps of the corals, which in association with microscopic algae safely embedded in their tissue, continuously secrete a skeleton of limestone.

For the rest of this article see the original in the Gulf News.

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Sara-Lise Haith
Sara-Lise Haithhttp://www.divasindubai.com
Sara-Lise is the former News Editor for DeeperBlue.com. She is based in Dubai.